Kinetic Sculpture, a Special Art Form

Whereas, a sculptor can be defined as an artist working in a stationary three-dimensional form, a kinetic sculptor is a bit more complex to define. Certainly his/her art form is about movement as kinetic implies, but it is also about a strong artistic sensibility, an inventor’s mind, mad engineering skills and an insatiable curiosity. Kinetic sculpture or art, are terms that refer to three-dimensional sculptures and figures such as mobiles, that move naturally or are machine operated. The movement of the art piece is powered by wind, motor-driven, electronic image changing, or moved by the observer.

Many large kinetic pieces are moved by the slightest breeze. The moving air is the energy that creates ever-changing sculpture pieces. Yet the art doesn’t need movement by wind to be considered a kinetic sculpture. It can be designed to emanate sounds such as the Singing, Ringing Tree, a sculpture designed of hollow metal tubes laid horizontally on top of each other to resemble a tree. The piece is set in the landscape of the Pennine hill range overlooking Burnley in Lancashire, England.

Most often kinetic sculptures are built on a fixed base as are the enormous pieces created by Anthony Howe of Eastsound, Washington, whose intricate towering structures dance in the wind on a stationary base, shape changing as they perform. Howe works with specialized software to first mockup each piece digitally before fabricating the individual components from metal. The motion of his sculpture is generated completely by the wind, with even the slightest breeze setting the dozens of rotating components in action.

While a majority of kinetic sculptures are wind-driven, a number of fascinating kinetic art pieces are electrically powered with a variety of motors. The piece entitled Kinetic Rain located in the Singapore airport is one such example. Touted as the world’s largest kinetic sculpture it, the moving sculpture was installed in early July 2012 spans an area of 75 square meters (810 sf) and a height of 7.3 meters (24 ft.). It is composed of two parts, each consisting of 608 rain droplets made of lightweight aluminum covered with copper. Suspended from thin steel ropes above the two opposing escalators, each droplet is moved precisely and seemingly floating by a computer-controlled motor hidden in the halls ceiling. The drops follow a fifteen minute, computationally designed choreography where the two parts move together in unison, sometimes mirroring, sometimes complementing, and sometimes responding to each other.

Reuben Margolin, creates techno-kinetic wave sculptures. Margolin, based in the Bay area of California, he uses everything from wood to cardboard to found and salvaged objects. His kinetic sculptures are extremely diverse ranging from small to giant size, motorized to hand-cranked. Focusing on natural elements like a discrete water droplet or a powerful ocean eddy, his work is elegant and hypnotic. His sculptures are designed to move around from a fixed base.

However, there are a few kinetic artists who are notable for kinetic sculptures that are not tied to a fixed location. Theo Jansen’s is one. His bizarre sculptures are ambulatory. Powered by wind-flled sails, his sculptures look like weird alien beings dropped in from another planet while walking across the ground on numerous articulated insect-like legs. Jansen builds his complicated ‘strandbeests‘ from yellow plastic tubing that is readily available in his native Holland.

Kinetic art is never boring as it is constantly changing shape. Most agree that its movements are fascinating, hypnotic and attention grabbing. When created by master artists such as the ones described here they deserved the term “artistic wonders” for its synergistic ability to combine fine art and mechanics to create and altogether unique class of art.

Post time: 06-05-2017